People: Alan Cumming lends his voice to AIDS/HIV awareness, education

Elizabeth Weinstein, Columbus Alive contributor

Perhaps you know him as the scheming yet loveable Eli Gold on CBS's "The Good Wife," or as the villainous TV host Fegan Floop in the popular "Spy Kids" movies. Maybe you saw him perform his Tony Award-winning role in Broadway'sCabaret live (lucky!), watched him co-host the 2015 Tony Awards (with Kristin Chenoweth) or read his 2014 memoir, "Not My Father's Son," which details his rocky relationship with his father.

Regardless of how you first discovered the multi-talented actor, director, writer and performer Alan Cumming, if you live in Central Ohio, you'll have a chance to see him in person on Saturday, April 16, in a role that is especially close to his heart: Honorary Chair of the 2016 Robert J. Fass Memorial AIDS Walk Central Ohio.

This year has been action-packed for Cumming - even by Hollywood celebrity standards - but the longtime social activist said he makes it a priority to support causes and events that he cares about, like the AIDS walk.

Cumming is currently on tour with his critically acclaimed cabaret show, "Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs," in which he un-ironically covers "sappy" songs that speak to him emotionally. He recently released a live album,Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs - Live at the Cafe Carlyle. His latest book, "You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams: And Other Stories," will be published in September. And a couple of weeks ago, Cumming filmed his last-ever episode of "The Good Wife."

While in town for the AIDS walk, which benefits AIDS Resource Center Ohio (ARC Ohio), Camp Sunrise, Nationwide Children's Hospital FACES Program, The Ohio AIDS Coalition and the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center AIDS Clinical Trials Unit, Cumming will deliver opening remarks prior to the Columbus 5K, and anyone who raises more than $1,000 for the cause can dine with him at the Grand Walker Breakfast on the morning of the event.

"I'm very much looking forward to coming [to Columbus]," Cumming, a native of Scotland and a current New York City resident, said in a phone interview last month. "I love getting out of New York and going to parts of America and meeting people who are really making a difference, coming together and doing great things. You're there to be a cheerleader for what they have achieved. They are all coming together to … raise awareness and cash."

Cumming, who identifies as bisexual and is married to commercial illustrator Grant Shaffer, said activism has played a key role in his life for as long as he can remember - especially when it comes to HIV/AIDS-related causes.

"I became an adult, and sexually active, at a time when AIDS was [an epidemic], so I grew up in the shadows of it and it's something that's always been very present in my life," he said. "I feel that we are at a difficult time now because we are creeping towards a cure, but it's a problem that people might get complacent. I am really excited by the idea of the community coming together for [the AIDS Walk]. I think it's a great time for us to remember and also to galvanize."

According to ARC Ohio, an estimated 23,000 Ohioans are currently living with HIV/AIDS, and less than one in three of them have achieved viral suppression (meaning that, through medical treatment, the virus is completely under control). Events like AIDS Walk Central Ohio, however, have helped nearly 80 percent of ARC Ohio patients to achieve viral suppression, compared with a national average of 30 percent.

Cumming said he hopes his public support will help increase awareness of prevention and treatment options. "Because I am well-known as an actor and people like my performance, I now have this platform to speak out. I'll always speak out about things I feel are important, that have to do with equality and education," he said. "I feel it is my duty as a public persona to use [the platform I have] for social change and to help people."

He added: "I feel like education is power, and equality is a right - not a privilege."

AIDS Walk Central Ohio

9 a.m. Saturday, April 16

McFerson Commons Park (ArchPark)

218 West St., Downtown

aidswalkohio.com